Act early to secure spring seed supplies

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Many popular spring seed varieties could be in tight supply this season so growers should place orders early to avoid disappointment, leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons says.

The prolonged wet, cold spring followed by a hot, dry summer hit both yield and quality of many crops in 2017/18, and the impact on seed availability for next spring is now becoming clearer, according to the firm’s seeds manager David Bouch.

“We’re not necessarily expecting a widespread shortage of all spring seed, but demand is certainly likely to outweigh supply for some of the preferred varieties.”

The situation is most acute for spring pulses, which like winter pulses, were hit hard by late drilling and extreme weather earlier in the year, raising question marks over the volume and quality of available seed.

Poor establishment and crop growth reduced spring bean yields in many areas, while the exceptionally hot, dry summer also caused more seed splitting at harvest, which reduces seed germination, Mr Bouch explains.

“Some people may switch to peas as an alternative to beans, but these haven’t had a good year either, so supply could be equally tight.”

Looking at cereals, Mr Bouch expects that the volume of spring barley seed will also be down on previous years due to lower yields and the impact of hot weather on quality.

“Spring barley is sometimes prone to dormancy issues anyway, but if that’s coupled with a low germination year caused by high temperatures affecting the germ inside the seed, it will compound the problems for seed availability.”

Additionally, reports suggest some seed crops have struggled to meet the grade due to high screenings, he notes.

There is likely to be a similarly tight supply of spring oat seed, while the availability of spring wheat may be less of a concern.

Good progress with winter drilling in the open autumn and a move away from spring crops by some growers following a couple of difficult years, may help the spring seed situation, but is unlikely to alleviate the supply pressure, Mr Bouch says.

“There’s still some uncertainty as to exactly how much will be available from suppliers, but if you have a requirement for spring seed and know what you want, then it is worth placing orders sooner rather than later.

“Historically many growers wait until January before ordering seed for sowing in February or March, but a lot of preferred varieties could be in short supply or sold out by then.”

Hutchinsons works with a network of suppliers to provide a range of seeds for all arable combinable crops and many others including energy and fodder crops, maize, small seeds and game cover.

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